Gavan Reilly: It’s not Gary Lineker who’s biased - it’s his workplace
Imagine if a high profile sports commentator and presenter tweeted about the evictions ban, and (hypothetically, but reasonably) said it seemed callous to allow no-fault evictions to resume when there was so little affordable alternatives available to renters. Would there be so much political hostility as a result? Hardly. Would RTÉ go into meltdown and demand a retraction and apology, suspending them until they got their way? Doubtful.
The reason Ireland would barely blink at this is because (a) we’re broadly mature enough to realise that people have opinions, and those opinions are often legitimate and valid, and we don’t lose our heads over the idea of others disagreeing with us; and (b) because our national broadcaster isn’t stuffed to the gills with managers who reflect the inbuilt biases of the party in government. (As someone who works for the two rival commercial broadcasters, it would be easy to give RTÉ a kicking on this front, but it’s really not the cradle of FF/FG some may claim.)
In my line of work there is regular criticism from people claiming bias on the part of me or of any other colleague. They might argue that a clip has been taken out of context, or selectively edited, or that too much airtime is given to one side of a debate and not to another.
Sometimes there’s a good basis to this grievance, albeit based on an item unfairly judged in isolation. But more often, claims of ‘bias’ tend to come from viewers who have their own biases and who want reportage to reflect it.
So who exactly is biased: the BBC sports presenter who has an opinion about politics - but never mentions it on air - or the broadcaster whose chair is a Conservative donor, whose director general is a personal financier for one Tory prime minister, and whose directors include a former director of communications for another Tory prime minister?